Boeing also in talks with RAAF and UK RAF on replacing strike aircraft with UCAVs

Boeing is proposing a larger, X-45C version of its unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator to address US Air Force concerns that future wars will require platforms with greater range. Meanwhile, the company has also discussed UCAVs with the Royal Australian Air Force and the UK Royal Air Force.

The US Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency is funding the X-45A and two prototypes are flying. There are plans to develop a larger X-45B to be the foundation for an operational A-45 due to enter USAF service in 2008.

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems senior vice-president air force systems George Muellner says the X-45 is designed to have a radius of action similar to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but recent operational experience in Afghanistan and Kosovo has highlighted a requirement for increased payload/range. "The US Air Force wants more range," he says.

Muellner says the X-45B has a wet wing to increase fuel capacity, but the X-45C configuration "goes considerably further - more than twice the range of the JSF."

The X-45C "looks different from the platform stand-point, but with the same internal avionics and systems", says Muellner. The UCAV's wetted area will be increased, although wing span will be around the same, he adds.

Muellner says: "We have had a lot of discussions...with the RAF and the RAAF." He says the company has only recently received US State Department approval for talks with Australia and the UK. Both countries have requirements to replace strike aircraft in the next decade, with the UK considering UCAVs as part of a mix of capabilities.

Network centric warfare is a key element of US strategy, and Muellner says "getting the UK onto the network is a key area of focus", and UCAV "offers an opportunity to develop in a joint fashion".


Source: Flight International